Used car intelligence
Honda Civic Type R EP3
Remember when nobody knew what a Honda Civic Type R was? If you’re a younger reader, the chances are that you won’t, but once upon a time the Type R badge was reserved for exotica available only beyond these shores.
Then, in the mid-1990s, someone at Honda had the bright idea that the British, with their legendary appetite for hot hatches, might just appreciate such things wearing said badge. An advance party was organised, in the form of the Integra and Accord Type Rs, both of which became instantly desirable thanks to largely favourable magazine coverage. We were ready for the main course.
This was it. The EP3 Honda Civic Type R was a hot hatch like no other: beneath its monobox, breadvan-like body lurked quirks such as a high driving position and a dash-mounted gearchange. But the biggest talking point was the 2.0-litre engine, which delivered its 197bhp peak at an extraordinary 7400rpm. VTEC, Honda’s famed variable valve timing system, had well and truly arrived in the world of hot hatchbacks.
Mind you, the VTEC switch to the higher camshaft profile in the Civic doesn’t quite have the same abruptness as it did in earlier Type Rs, and the engine noise is slightly more muted – perhaps a calculated move to increase its appeal to a less hardcore mainstream audience.
It still sounds great, though, that ululating bark filling the car as your reward for eking out the last smidges of power. And the Civic’s 197bhp goes a long way. It feels properly quick and nimble, unencumbered by the mass we’ve come to expect from today’s hot hatches, despite having a modern-feeling interior with air conditioning and a CD player.
But what really makes this Type R enjoyable is how utterly bulletproof it feels. Even using every last rev, time and again, the temperature gauge stands firm and the engine’s strength and potency never diminish. The brakes, too, retain their bite and feel, even after you’ve stamped on them repeatedly. The sense that it just won’t quit gives you the confidence to use all of the Type R’s power.
So you feel you can push harder and harder still. The steering may be numb – blame Honda’s pioneering spirit and the resulting electronic assistance for that one – but it is at least sharp and quick. The chassis balance is delightful, too, allowing you to adjust the Civic’s trajectory on the throttle. Pretty soon, you don’t care about the lack of feel at the wheel, because you’re having too much fun despite it.
There are other ingredients here that make the EP3 such a joy to drive fast. That gearlever might look odd, but in practice it’s right where you need it to be, and the change is beautifully quick and positive. And yes, the high seats do feel a bit odd at first, but never does this Type R feel top heavy and nor do you ever feel anything less than fully ensconced.
It isn’t hard to see why the Civic Type R has become such a firm favourite. No, it isn’t quite as exhilarating or as hardcore as the Integra Type R, but the trade-off is that it’s more usable. Don’t imagine for a second that it isn’t the riot that you’d expect from its reputation, though. Its combination of deftness, exuberance and tenacity make it this Civic Type R of the most tempting hot hatch buys on the market today.
What makes this Type R enjoyable is how utterly bulletproof it feels
Lightweight Type R makes full use of its 197bhp
Brakes stand up to repeated hard use